Monday, March 10, 2014

U2 Ranked - #134-#125

#134 – “Summer Rain”
This “Beautiful Day” B-side is maybe the first song I would recommend on this list. The chaff is starting (starting – not done yet!) to fall away. That rare U2 song based on a simple strummed acoustic guitar chord pattern, that fallback of coffeehouse songwriters the world over, this tune has a nice alternate history feel to it – like if U2 had been a coffeehouse band this is what they might have been about. The lyric is a bit lazy – “I lost myself in the summer rain” sounds like a lyric you’d hear . . . from a college kid with an acoustic guitar in a coffeehouse. But there’s something in the song’s unabashed simplicity and lack of fussiness that resonates.

#133 – “I Fall Down”
This October deep cut kicks off with piano – a sound and style that’s something the U2 of October experimented with some and then never really revisited. As with much of October the lyric is a bit sketchy, with Julie and her letter (“Julie says/John I'm getting nowhere/I wrote this letter/Hope to get someplace soon”) sounding like details of a fuller story we never really get a picture of. But the music is full of that early U2 energy, and the simple piano line is pretty effective. We also get an early version of an Edge background falsetto, so that’s something.

#132 – “If You Wear That Velvet Dress”
There are certain U2 songs that sound as if excessive fussiness in the studio has buried what could have been a great song. If that’s not true for this Pop track, it sounds close. I’ve always thought the attempt at moodiness, with Bono singing the first few lines down an octave, torpedoes the song before it really starts, because the voice is so low in the mix it barely registers. But when the verse kicks in there’s a very sweet smokiness to the arrangement, especially Adam’s soft bass line. This is clearly another U2 attempt at sexiness, and if it doesn’t entirely land it does offer some elements to recommend it.

#131 – “Dirty Day”
Zooropa is arguably U2’s most experimental album, and this track, with its slow beginning, sounding as if the volume is slowly being raised on a song already playing, and the jangly, industrial clanging of the arrangement, is a pretty successful experiment. There’s an element of near-menace here, and the contrast with a sudden change in mood at the bridge is quite effective. The lyrics, all about guilt and betrayal, have some nice moments as well – “If you need someone to blame/Throw a rock in the air/You'll hit someone guilty.” The musical hook and build are nothing too memorable, which keep this interesting piece from ranking a bit higher.

#130 – “A Man and a Woman”
A side two track that’s pretty forgotten today from U2’s How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, this mid-tempo number is kind of the reverse of “Dirty Day.” The lyric and arrangement are pretty pedestrian, while the hook is, if not Top 50-level, still pretty catchy. “The mysterious distance between a man and a woman” works fine as a lyric, but sounds more banal the more you hear it.

#129 – “Red Light”
The “da-na-na” back-up singers at the beginning of this War cut might fool you into thinking at first that this is not a U2 song. The trumpets at the end don’t dissuade you either. But the Bono howl and the Edge guitar riff in the middle don’t lie. This is a fun song, if not one that’s lasted much. Frankly, if not for the trumpet solo (which is kind of awesome) it would probably not have ranked so high for me. 

#128 – “Rejoice”
Another deep October cut, this song has a very, very U2 riff at its center, and that opens the song. It’s got a great hurried, impatient, almost manic energy, with that young U2 message of wanting to make an impact but not knowing how very much present. “I can’t change the world/But I can change the world in me” pre-dates Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” by ten years or so. Add in some pretty harried, interesting Larry drumming, and you have a song that maybe is unfairly forgotten.

#127 – “Lady with the Spinning Head”
Back to the B-sides, here off of “One.” The main riff has a great cyclical energy, and the title is a fun one. This is one of those U2 songs that sounds like an earlier attempt at a song that made the album, with this one coming across as a more upbeat, manic “Mysterious Ways.” A fun listen, but definitely not anywhere near the level of the song it (maybe?) became.

#126 – “Stranger in a Strange Land”
I quite like the opening of this October track, which starts with a rapid, machine-gun riff, and then quickly slows down to a bass-driven mellower verse. That bass line is a real Adam keeper, all relaxed up-the-scale, down-the-scale funk-lite. The lyric is yet more 80s-era half sketched character stuff that kind of goes nowhere (“A soldier asked for a cigarette/His smiling face I can't forget/He looked like you across the street/But that's a long way here”), but the musical mix of styles sticks with you a little bit.

#125 – “Some Days Are Better Than Others”
Another Zooropa track, this a very mellow, shuffling song with some aphorism-driven lyrics that, with the “some days” connective tissue working throughout, hang together nicely (“Some days take less, but most days take more/Some slip through your fingers and onto the floor/Some days you're quick, but most days you're speedy/Some days you use more force than is necessary.”). The slapped drums in the chorus are a lot of fun, and Edge lets off a very playfully distorted, fuzz-box-full guitar solo partway through. A throwaway? Sure. But a fun one.

Until Whenever

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